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What is Black Mold?

Many a people worry that they may have black mold in their home and that it might be affecting their health.  In 2003, the news program 48 hours ran an episode entitled “Invisible Killers”, which featured the story of Melinda Ballard and her family and their  ordeal with toxic black mold. This story created an awareness of mold exposure and how serious such exposure can be for some people.

Black Mold is a common term in the media for the mold species Stachybotyrs Chartrum, or simply Stachybotrys. (It is the genus which includes the Chartrum species.)  What makes Stachybotrys such a health hazard is its capability to produce mycotoxins. It’s not the only mold that produces mycotoxins, and it doesn’t always produce them, However, when Stachybotrys does produce mycotoxins, it produces more of them in greater concentrations increasing the risk of exposure.

These mycotoxins assist in causing numerous detrimental health effect including  chronic coughing and sneezing, irritation to the eyes, mucus membranes of the nose and throat, rashes, chronic fatigue and persistent headaches. Stachybotyrs is a high water activity mold that requires a wet environment to grow and survive.  This black mold growth in homes is usually found near a water leak  growing on some type of cellulose building materials.  Black mold often grows on the drywall, lumber, carpets, insulation, glues, and many other building materials.

How can I tell if I have Stachybotrys?

It’s very difficult to tell what type of mold you have with the naked eye. Additionally, not all black mold is Stachybotrys. Slimy, wet, or sticky mold is often black mold. It’s this way because it takes persistent water to grow.  It’s usually discovered after flooding or leaks. However, people often mistake other mold for Stachybotrys because it’s black in color.  The truth is many visible molds are black. But, the only way to tell with certainty is to send a sample to the lab for testing.